by Max Brantley
A roundup of news miscellany this morning:
* FOREST PLACE ON FIRE AGAIN: Another fire of suspicious origin hit the Forest Place Apartments on North University last night, the seventh since February by the count of Channel 4. (The same day as a class action suit was filed over the building owner's alleged culpability in not preventing the fires.) Our photographer Brian Chilson lives there and reports:
I woke up to the smell of smoke around midnight, jumped out of bed and walked in the living room to find it filling with smoke. The front door had black smoke seeping in around the edges - I opened it and saw nothing but a black wall of smoke. I slammed the door and called 911 while I woke my wife. We escaped out of a window as the firemen began to arrive (good thing cause neither my wife or I was looking forward to jumping.)
I was allowed back in to grab essentials and all I can tell you is the hall way. In my building is a black charred mess from one end to the other.
* CALLING MARK DARR: The lieutenant governor says all is well — better than before actually — in Mayflower after the busted Exxon Mobil pipeline gushed tar sand crude on the neighborhood and polluted wetlands and a part of Lake Conway. Tell that to the residents around the lake who have filed yet another class action lawsuit over the damages. Channel 4 reports.
* DEPUTIES SUSPENDED FOR USE OF FORCE: The Garland County sheriff's office has handed out unpaid suspensions to two deputies for excessive use of force in a burglary arrest. Sgt. Scott West got two weeks off without pay and Cpl. Kellar got four weeks. Both must attend a "use of force refresher class," according to an office news release. This investigation was originated by the State Police on this incident. UPDATE: Here's the summary of the investigation.
* BOBBY ROBERTS HONORED: A crowd of 75 to 100 gathered at the new soon-to-be Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library last night for the Arkansas Community Institute's presentation of its Truth Teller Award to Dr. Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System.
ACI is an arm of Arkansas Community Organizations, the Acorn successor that helps low-income families and energizes grassroots activism. It has been vital in Roberts' many successful library tax campaigns. He also lives its inclusive message with a living wage for library employees, domestic coverage for workers and broad inclusiveness in everything from location of libraries, to honoring (by citizen vote) a diverse range of literary figures on the parapet of the downtown library to a general fearlessness about backlash from the usual sources (think the Democrat-Gazette editorial carping about the Clinton Library decision). I was happy to be a part of the program last night.
People on hand included friends and allies over the years, including Acorn founder Wade Rathke, former U.S. Sen. David Pryor, Insurance Commission Jay Bradford (who nurtured the constitutional amendment that lifted the cap on library millages statewide) and many more familiar foot soldiers in the fight for having government and public representation in Arkansas look like Arkansas.
Wish I had Roberts' ringing endorsement of inclusiveness on tape. Said Roberts: "If you don't like diversity, move to Iran." He talked about being a Helena native and the racial animus that informed his childhood. He learned and grew over the years. So can we all. Libraries are good for that.